Sunday, October 24, 2010

Name That Freedom

New York Times
October 23, 2010

So now we know that Christine O’Donnell, the Republican candidate for senator in Delaware, isn’t a constitutional scholar.

On Tuesday, during a debate, Ms. O’Donnell asked her opponent, Chris Coons, “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” The question drew gasps and laughter from the law school audience.

When Mr. Coons pointed out that the first words of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” are the foundation of the concept, she replied, “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”

She was, she later said, attempting to point out that the actual words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the text of the Constitution. This is true in the strictest sense, and has become a popular argument among religious conservatives who believe that courts have gone too far.

Still, the moment has been held up as a flub of the first order.